Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Counseling/Therapy


I want to step off my usual soapbox of "Broken Crayons Still Color" belief. And get on a totally different one, because I have had a ton of healing that has taken place and in this post, as well as my last, I’ll explain the healing that has taken place, with physical healing aside and focusing more on emotional and mental health.

Me: *steps on soapbox*

*crowd groans*

GRIEVING 

It wasn't until I started going to professional counseling once a week that I expressed somethings with one of my counselors (I've gone through 3 now), and he explained to me that I needed to allow myself to grieve. I found this odd because I thought grieving was what you do when someone passes away. But he went on to explain that I had/someone lost not someone but something; I had been taken away from my mission, my life plans and goals had had a total wrench thrown in them. And where nobody close to me had died, huge parts inside of me had, in a way, died. And he gave me permission to grieve. He allowed me to feel sad. And hurt. He explained that one can't truly feel better, until they can accept that whatever bad thing that occurred, actually had happened. I have talked a little bit about this. When I first got sent home I thought it was guilt that I felt, but I was able to realize that it was actually more shame than anything else. Shame for being home early, and not wanting to be seen by my other friends that were returning home without feeling like a giant sign was following you everywhere that said in big flashing neon letters "SHE GOT SENT HOME EARLY, THEREFORE STARE AT HER!" It might sound funny but most days, especially Sunday's or when attending other missionary homecomings I felt that way.

And then he said I had to stop telling myself to "suck it up" and instead allow myself to be sad. When I came to grips with what he said I felt like the weight I was carrying was a little more bearable, not in any way lighter, but easier to manage and maintain. I still felt bad for coming home. I still felt shame, and I still felt like the neon sign was following me everywhere, but I didn't get down on myself for feeling that way. I kept my sadness focused on only feeling upset over being home. It didn't do me any good to get more upset at myself, saying I shouldn't feel that way. So I allowed those feelings to come, and it was a relief not to try and suppress them. I could focus on more important things like trying to be healthier. I had less self-doubt, which was a big change that I had not been able to make on my own in over a year.

During this time I focused more on quitting sugar (which I have done successfully and have lost 20+ pounds because of it), I started coaching around that time as well. And even though I was sad I didn't loath myself for being that way. In a strange way as I allowed myself to grieve it slowly began to allow me to accept what happened.

COUNSELING/THERAPY

As I was allowing myself be sad I was still attending regular weekly counseling sessions. (And this is where I need to step onto my soapbox.) Counseling, therapy, witchcraft whatever you want to call it, has helped me heal from the events that led up to me going home. Medication and essential oils and special diets are for the benefit of killing the disease that is dealing havoc on my body right now. But when I came home in June, I knew I was already a mess, I knew things were going to get worse emotionally because I was home early, but I didn't know how bad, and I didn't know to what extreme. But after a couple months of returning home I found myself writing a letter to my parents because I didn't know how to tell them, or explain that I was suicidal and needed more help than the anti-depressants and the other drugs that were helping fighting Lyme.  I didn't know what to suggest. I didn't know what to do. I just knew that when I was told I was getting sent home me and my companion agreed that it was so I could get help. And she kept saying that before I left, over and over: "you are going to get the help you need." And I knew I wasn't getting it. I needed emotional healing that drugs couldn't do.
My doctor recommended counseling. I thought it would come down to this; I didn't like it at all. But I was so low and in such a bad place I agreed and immediately started going. Now, I had talked to an LDS counselor before, on my mission when things first started getting bad. But back then I was in denial that I even had depression so I didn't take it seriously. When I would talk to my counselor on the phone, I just listed off what was troubling me and she would suggest things like “keep a gratitude journal” which was great, but it didn't do anything to help me see better things in myself. But she was my first counselor, and she tried her best with what she had. I understand now you can't do much when you are on the phone. But back then. I thought it was a waste of time.

My second counselor was highly qualified (I'm not sure what my LDS counselor’s qualifications were, but I knew they weren't as high as my second counselor). The first thing he did was tell me that he recognized how truly humble I was by voicing (even if it was in a letter) that I needed help, and to come to counseling to get it. I didn't really know what to say to that, but it made me feel more hope. And I found myself opening up quickly with the same hope of getting the help I needed.

Because everyone has the same thoughts and fears of counseling as I did, I decided I’d address them:

1) I worried that if I was honest my therapist would judge me harshly, Or think I was a total mess. I think it went a little deeper than that as well, I think I feared that I was in too deep to even receive help. So they would just check me in a padded cell with a straight jacket.

Where this worry of mine came from some past events that had me believe this was an actual possibility, I learned from the first time I opened out about having harmful thoughts got you put on lock down in “room 9” of the ER. But what I learned is that honesty is really all a therapist asks for. If you give them honesty the better they are at helping you. I realized that worrying that my therapist would judge me is kinda like saying your doctor will assume you are a bad cook if you go to get stitches for tripping and stabbing a knife in your hand. It’s not in the doctors job description to critique you as a cook. It is his job to stitch you up and provide healing care. Same with a therapist. They want to provide mental and emotional healing.

2) I worried that I would have to go the rest of my life once I started. I know this is false, I expressed this worry when I began with my second counselor and he said we would go at my pace and when I said it was time to stop, all I needed to do was quit making appointments. Again, it’s like a doctor, you call if you need to talk.





3) I also worried that they would
make me change in ways I didn't want to. That they would suggest things that they thought I needed to do, but that I wouldn't agree. And I found that as I went once a week, the change came not from them telling me things I needed to do, but just by having them listen. Nobody can fo
rce you to change. It’s called agency and where I know I cursed it more than a few times on the mission, I am grateful for it. There have been things my counselors have suggested that I just sorta said “Eh… yeah probably not going to do that.” And it’s fine.

4) I also questioned within myself if I even wanted to talk. I thought to myself, “How can I be expected to go tell some stranger my problems, when I have to write a note to explain it to my own parents?” I still don’t understand this completely. But once I realized there was a neutral nonjudgmental person sitting in front of me, with the means of helping me straighten out my problems, I had no problem talking about it. And some sessions were much harder than others. A few were very emotional. But again, I had to feel those things and be sad, so that I could then start to feel better.

5) I also worried that I would go and pay an awful lot of money just to have someone tell me everything that is wrong with me. But I was wrong there as well. I found out new things that were wrong with me. Like PTSD for example, but they didn't sit there and say I was depressed, I already knew that. Or that I had anxiety that lead to panic attacks I already knew that too. What was great is they didn't say it exactly they just helped me realize how real it all was just by me saying.

 Theses are just a few things that I or other people I have talked to have voiced about their fears in going to counseling/therapy.

 The healing that has happened mentally and emotionally for me since starting counseling back in October is so great that I can say I haven't had a panic attack in 4 weeks. And my social anxiety is near depletion. Since counseling I can now tell someone I was bit by a tick, and sent home from my mission and later diagnosed with Lyme disease... something I could not do before. I can now attend a missionary homecoming, like I did just last Sunday, and not cry because of the shame and jealously I feel for wanting to be a "real return missionary". Because of counseling the PTSD that I had from the crazy events that led up to me being sent home, are all gone.

I didn't learn how to just “get over my feelings”, I feel like I learned that it’s ok to feel. To not get mad about it. I have learned it's ok to grieve. To be sad. To cry. To feel hurt. And now because of counseling I have accepted that I was sent home early. But that it's ok. Life goes on. It didn't seem like it would. I mean my life seems far from "going on". But the dark period of grieving is past now.

This is why I want to take this time to explain that if you have doubts about seeking help with a counselor or a therapist for any reason and if you do some deep soul searching and realize that it's just your pride. Or something else. I urge you to put it aside and give it a try. My second counselor couldn't fit with my schedule once I started coaching basketball, so I had to start with a different one, and he has been just as great, if not better. I still meet with him. I am far from better, and I'm still battling Lyme disease and depression, but counseling has helped.

If you are worried about what others think and that seems to hold you back from seeing a counselor, I will invite you to STOP IT! I will implore you to put the silly thoughts aside and do your mental and emotional self a favor and get help. Because, without counseling, I really don't know where I would be right now. I used to be super embarrassed to say I was going to counseling, I still don’t really openly tell people. And if I have to tell someone where I go once a week I just say the doctor... I know the stigma that comes from seeing a counselor. But now I also know its all wrong. And that counseling truly can help you heal.

Some lucky people may find themselves reading this saying, "I'm fine, nothing is wrong with me, I don't need counseling." And to that I say well then what are you doing wasting your time with this? However, If you find yourself saying “I’m not good at talking about my feelings...” Neither am I, but I learned how and that is part of getting better. And from my experience, counselors know how to best help you for your struggles. I had to tell myself this isn't some random dude off the street. He has been through intense schooling to know how to best help individuals with their problems. If you have thought for a while, or have been recommended for counseling and just don’t want to. You are making the wrong choice.

Counseling helps you heal in an emotional way that drugs cannot do. I know that now. And I am so grateful to have learned it.

Me: *steps off soapbox* 

*crowd cheers with relief*




-The Lyme Warrior